Blockchain is helping refugees make financial inroads

By Folake Dosu  |  December 3, 2018

blockchain-refugees

Nairobi-based startup Gravity Earth is bringing blockchain technology to manage personal information at refugee camps, reports TechCrunch.

Their team took the stage at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin to divulge how their platform uses blockchain to increase access to financial services and other resources to help refugees better their quality of life.

Founded by Johannes Ebert and Paul Langlois-Meurinne, the platform securely digitizes personal data that NGOs can use while serving refugee camps. A refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya will be the site of Gravity Earth’s first deployment.

Using biometric data, teachers at three schools in the camp will be able to upload data to a web app that tracks both daily attendance and academic performance.

Ebert sees an opportunity for the startup to partner with NGOs to track other relevant metrics to measure quality of life for residents in the camp.

“Everyone in the camps is basically an unknown person, so every piece of information known about them gains a lot of value. That could be tracking attendance in school, or basic identity such as age, the number of kids in the household, languages spoken, etc.”

“Everyone in the camps is basically an unknown person, so every piece of information known about them gains a lot of value,” Ebert explained at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin. “That could be tracking attendance in school, or basic identity such as age, the number of kids in the household, languages spoken, etc.”

As a workaround for the hurdles of data collection, Gravity Earth lets third parties to provide and validate user data in addition to offering incentives to validators such as free mobile airtime and lotteries.

“Trust is built and identity is validated through the community, so being able to capture claims being made by, for example, a village chief is very interesting,” Ebert explained. “How is this person connected in the network? How many people have validated them, etc.?”

Plans to add more third party integrations such as financial services platforms will require more user education to ensure that user privacy rights are maintained.

Gravity Earth sees opportunities to expand throughout Africa.

“We’ll consider new projects once there are a critical number of users on the platform and we have rich data profiles for the users,” Ebert elaborated. “The thing we’d like to move to is access to financial services for refugees — we also see this as a way to monetize and prove our business model.”

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